Urban Village’s Ubaba… connecting, celebrating isolated masculinities.

Urban Village Released a BLOCKBUSTER of a music video, yiFilm… The opening lyrics speak a tale of a father, on a brothers Grimm type epic, travelling, exorcising and vanquishing evil spirits with the aid of a brother, fellow father. I Interpret this is his answer to the question, “Uphi Ubaba”, and damn what a great answer, certain, worthy of a hero’s return… perhaps exaggerated, by the father, at least, he is there to answer for himself… which is what should be expected…. at the very least.

The archetype of Ubaba is established, stern but kind, surveiller of his territory, perhaps unpredictable, classy, informed, orderly. Cruising home on a gravel road, the car is green and looks like it runs smoothly. Shining like it is not only taken care of, but loved. Like a bozza tsotsi van toeka, somewhat acknowledging the various women he’s passing by, Tshata rambles on Ukhozi Fm, with modern zulu guitar accompanying his chats. Ubaba exits the car, the sound is left behind when he shuts the door… In a classic ending of an opening scene, there is a reverence afforded to the father figure, a belt holds up powder blue brentwood slacks, a Marula yellow collared shirt and diamond pattern sleeveless cardigan as he hands out treats to children upon his return… he is then clothed in dignity that cannot be bought at Rand outfitters. In the background, Silhouettes of train rail lines with Apollo high mast lights leaving fixed nuggets of gold on a Soweto sunless skyline.

Next frame, we are greeted with what feels like a strange hybrid of isolation and overcrowding offered by low lighting, close ups, deep contrasts with high shadows reminisce of hostel living and perhaps cinematically the masculine- obsessed Carling Black Label advertisements about rewards at the end of a day… Men isolated, but together, engaged in activity, at the end of a day. The camera is intrusive, almost gonzo, giving us intimate insight regarding the relationships men have with their hands, work and others, almost to counter the narrative that South African men’s hands are for hitting. It all happens in the presence of deep shadows, men working in a darkness that they have clearly climatized to, because even in the low light, they are working, watching, erranding, socialising, interacting kindly, not being aggressive even when the camera is being intrusively close up into the affairs of the men and their isolation. Even the boxing and the guri energy in the other room is harmless, necessary expression of masculine energy, dominance channelled, and challenged… and a series of young men follows, new archetypes for the age as it evolves… The stuff is beyond entertainment, for me, its the symbolism. And I thought Justice was done… this statement is perfectly ambiguous because the directors name is Justice Mokheli, who by doing justice to this video, outdid himself.

Feet in tradition, head in the future, the four musicians of Urban Village raise the cultural and historical awareness of the South African township of Soweto, where a strategy of the regime sought to separate many fathers from their families and send them to mines in Johannesburg up until the 1990s… to this day there are socio economic repercussions. Through the camera work of Justice Mukheli, the video explores the daily life of these male spaces which, despite the fatigue of the circumstances, remained places of conviviality and unity.

Justice Mukheli, is our brother from Soweto. From the moment we discussed his vision for the “Ubaba” music film we trusted he would bring the song to life on screen. The music video shows the different roles played by father’s within society; to nurture, to care, to love, and to protect their families. Salute to all the Ubabas out there present in the house” — Urban Village.

The video culminates in men, full of vitality and music gather around a unifying fire, as the darkness of night comes as mandated by nature… they share songs, drink sorghum and eat together… Alive and Living, perhaps an answer to the question, asked By Tubatsi Moloi the lead Singer, “…Uphi Ubaba…”. It is a question that needs to be answered with a sense of certainty for our society to be secure in their abilities and being, which is a result of a Mother + Father. This certainty will increase self esteem for the growing. It is because we’ve seen too many consider their lives are not optimised for their success because of strained or no relations with their father. and so the expense is made to appease the ancestors a few blemished animals would be serve as sacrifices, because ubaba akangenzelanga umsebenzi. South Africa is a country often resigning itself to fatherlessness, often blamed on masculinity as a trashy aspect of the balance… but really this is mostly just a breakdown in communication within a framwork and conditions not conducive for the maintenance of families as our forefathers understood… but this new condition must not be exaggerated for social media clout. The fathers are there to account for themselves, this is a call to them to “be there”, where ever “there” is. The family is the first village, and with urbanisation, came a new village, I conclude, this is perhaps where Urban village gets its group name, a place where people sing and work in harmony, according to agreed social norms, even in the face of an oppressor. The video provides a glimpse of contemporary South African culture, essential today in  envisioning a future where the spirit of ubuntu takes precedence over issues of skin colour and economic interest. for all.

Their record label, No Format, French Based and highly competent, describes Urban Village as “the futuristic indie folk voice of Soweto”, kinda cool aint it. In their eponymous EP, the musicians get their inspiration from the rich musical heritage of South African soil and offer an original synthesis that mixes Zulu guitars, indie folk, South African choirs, and jazz, all carried by a spiritual energy. The coming album, Titled Udondolo, will hopefully be a journey through the times of Soweto, the people and their stories, in a dormitory town known as soweto, that became home, birthing and forever morphing not-so-secret societies of music where the hopes of an entire people resonate, even to this today. 

But You gotta Check out the Video here.

L’EP Ubaba is available on all platforms.

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